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Last Updated: Tuesday, 30 January 2007, 01:04 GMT
Trust defends access to records
computer mouse (generic)
The NHS records programme is costing 12bn
A hospital is reviewing a policy allowing doctors to share pass cards which give them access to patient records held on computer.

The policy at South Warwickshire Hospitals Trust contravenes guidelines for the system, part of 12bn NHS programme putting patient notes online.

The British Medical Association said it could put patient security at risk.

But the trust said the policy applied to computers in a secure area providing no risk to patient records security.

Under the policy, agreed by the trust, staff can share a shift leader's "smartcard", allowing them to access individual patient records.

Long log-in times

The Department of Health promised in November that anyone wanting to access a patient record would need to have an individual smartcard and pass code.

This would limit access and provide an audit trail if people inappropriately accessed records.

The records system is part of the 12bn National Programme for IT (NPfIT) for England, designed to provide 50 million patient records electronically.

The trust runs Warwick and Stratford-upon-Avon hospitals.

The trust said the policy had been introduced because of the long log-in time for individuals using the system.

"The two computers are used solely by clinicians and positioned in a secure area in Accident and Emergency not accessible by anyone other than clinical staff," a spokeswoman said.

'Time saved'

It is understood 12 doctors have access to the two computers.

The policy would be reviewed when log-in times were improved, she said.

Dr Jeremy Harrison, A&E consultant at Warwick Hospital, said: "This arrangement means that precious time is saved, ensuring we treat our patients as efficiently as possible."

But a spokeswoman for the British Medical Association said: "Sharing access not only puts at risk the security of the system but also disrupts the audit trail which tracks who has accessed parts of the record."

A spokesman for Connecting for Health, which runs the IT programme, said there was no question of the confidentiality of patient data being compromised at the hospital.

The sharing policy would end once early difficulties over log-in times was resolved, expected to be in the near future, he added.

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